At a time when India’s ties with its western neighbour have reached the nadir, its friend in the east, Bangladesh, has not only backed it in matters of geopolitics, but has decided to use soft power to deepen the bond.
In a breakthrough moment for cinema archiving in India, the Bangladesh Film Archive (BFA) has agreed to hand over the original celluloid print of Pramathesh Chandra Barua’s ‘Devdas’ to the National Film Archives of India (NFAI).
All Indian prints of this Bengali film dating back to 1935 have been destroyed.
Last year, NFAI had acquired a DVD format of the film from Bangladesh in exchange for a copy of India’s first silent feature film, ‘Raja Harishchandra’. But restoration work in this format proved unsuccessful.
“Bangladesh’s informa tion minister Hasanul Haq Inu has agreed to give us the celluloid print of the film. This will help us start the restoration process,” said NFAI director Prakash Magdum.
Barua had made ‘Devdas’ in three languages – Bengali (1935), Hindi (1936) and Assamese (1937). The Bengali version had Barua himself in the lead, with Jamuna Barua playing Paro and Chandrabati Devi as Chandramukhi. The Hindi version starred KL Saigal, Jamuna Barua and Rajkumari while the Assamese version had Phani Sarma, Zubeida and Mohini. The NFAI has begun work on a project with `Devdas’ as its theme. Cinematic adaptations of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel has been a favourite with directors and as many as 12-13 adaptations exist in various Indian languages. “While talking to Gulzar saab, we learnt he had begun a version starring Dharmendra, Hema Malini and Sharmila Tagore. The producer was actor Prem Chopra’s brother.Iam trying to source the two reels that were shot,” Magdum said.
NFAI is also trying to acquire Dilip Roy’s Bengali version starring Uttam Kumar, Soumitra Chatterjee, Supriya Devi and Sumitra Chatterjee. Besides, search is on for Shakti Samanta’s version. At present, NFAI has six versions of the film, including Barua’s Hindi version.